Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Unhatched Egg Report

The 3 eggs that were recovered from the nest on May 11, 2007, have been determined to be infertile. Since Orville has a history of successful breeding, it is likely due to Scout's young age. It is normal that some or all of the eggs may not be fertile on a first-time nesting attempt if the bird is not fully mature.

Some have wondered why we would take the eggs from the nest vs. letting "nature take its course." As stewards of the peregrine falcon population in Ohio, it is the Ohio Division of Wildlife's responsibility to foster these birds and protect them. Part of protection includes monitoring their reproductive success. It would be irresponsible of us not to evaluate the eggs to determine why they did not hatch. Back in the era of DDT, had wildlife managers not evaluated reproductive success (or lack thereof) of peregrines and other birds of prey the threats that chemical contamination posed to the species survival may not have been discovered. While DDT is less of a concern now, other contaminants may not be. So, as part of our peregrine falcon management program we note when nests succeed as well as when they do not and try to determine the cause of failure. This information is evaluated and used to track the species' progress over time.

On another note: along with Scout, Orville has been seen more frequently over the past few days. One or both birds seem to be checking out the nest box several times a day.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Surprise visitors

After being absent from the nest ledge a few days, the falcons (especially Scout) are making an appearance again. But first, on Wednesday two pigeons were seen on the ledge!!! Make that very BRAVE pigeons! Obviously, the peregrines were away from the immediate area for a brief time that the pigeons could stop by safely, otherwise they likely could have been lunch!

Since Wednesday, Scout has been checking in and even working on the scrape. Today she perched on the nestbox camera housing for about an hour. This is a good sign in that it would indicate that she is still interested in the nest box on the Rhodes Tower (vs. moving to a new site within the downtown area). But does it mean there will be a 2nd clutch? Not necessarily. Scraping is part of the territorial process--in fact, after young have fledged from the nest successfully the adults will go back into the nest box in late summer and scrape in the gravel when we know they have no intention of nesting again until the next season. It is definitely a good sign that Scout is scraping now, but it is not guaranteed we'll see more eggs this year. We'll just have to wait until we see eggs (or not) to know for sure...! As for the eggs from the first clutch, I hope to be able to find out next week if they were fertile. I will post the information as soon as I know.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Second clutch details

Here are some details concerning the possibility of a second nesting attempt at the Rhodes Tower. If Scout and Orville are going to produce another clutch we would expect it to happen within a couple of weeks.

Scout and Orville have not been seen around the nest box or ledge for several days now. This is normal behavior since the nest failed to hatch. Because they don't have eggs to incubate or chicks to feed, the falcons have shifted back to non-nesting activities of simply hunting, eating, sleeping, etc. and just general being around the downtown area away from view of the cameras.

If they are going to recycle, we should start seeing them again with some frequency and would also observe the usual courtship-type behavior that we see in February and March (for those of you in downtown Columbus you might see courtship flights; via the cam we would see scraping in the nest box and displays on the ledge). In Ohio, peregrine eggs have been laid as late as early June but Dave Scott (Peregrine Falcon Project Leader for the Ohio Division of Wildlife) predicts that if Scout doesn't produce any more eggs by the end of May, then it probably won't happen this year.

Another thing to consider would be if the birds decided to change nesting locations. Currently there are no other nest boxes in the downtown area that the Division of Wildlife has installed (the one at the Franklin County Building was removed a few years ago). But that doesn't mean the birds have to be loyal to the box at the Rhodes Tower. Luckily, most of the other buildings downtown aren't that hospitable to nesting falcons, however that doesn't mean they might not try. The LeVeque Tower, in particular, has ledge areas that could be appealing to a peregrine nest. There is a nest box at The James Cancer Hospital at The Ohio State University campus, however that is probably farther away than the downtown birds would go. So, I ask those of you who work or visit the downtown Columbus area, to please keep an eye out and email me privately any observations you make of the falcons for the next few weeks to assist me in monitoring this situation. Thanks for your help!

Friday, May 11, 2007

Eggs removed from the nest box

This morning I was able to get the eggs out of the nest box with no problems. The streaming video was not available at the time (server issue) but some photos were saved off of the stills. Tim Daniel, Div. of Wildlife photographer, went out on the ledge first to get into position to protect my back as I pulled the eggs from the nest. When we first got there, neither bird was at the nest or on the ledge. But it didn't take them long to figure out we were there and start attacking!

Tim got an especially close up view of Scout as she swooped at him, ending up mere inches from his face. Even though I was technically the "greatest" threat since I was taking the eggs, lucky for me the birds usually go towards the "biggest" threat -hence Tim took the brunt of most of the attacks today (he's 6'3" and was standing up while I was bent down, leaning into the nest box)! We were out on the ledge less than 5 minutes and no peregrines (or photographers) were harmed in the process!

Surprisingly, none of the eggs were pipped as we thought we saw via the camera. We will have the eggs evaluated to see if they were fertile or not. I will report the findings as soon as I have the information. Here is a photo of them to help you get a sense of their size.

Things should be quiet at the nest ledge for the next several days. Hopefully, Scout and Orville will produce more eggs this season. So now we wait to see if that will happen!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

And then there were 3...

Well it seems that one of the eggs was definitely infertile. Here's what happened: yesterday afternoon one of the eggs was noticeably sunken in. Then, last evening an egg broke and Orville was observed possibly eating some of the contents and removing the remains. From reports it sounded as if the contents were yolky which would indicate that egg had not developed. It is normal for the adults to consume part or all of an egg and/or remove remains to keep the nest clean. We are now down to 3 eggs in the nest.

The birds may appear confused at times and some viewers even worry that they are sad. Scout and Orville's actions are based strictly on instinct, not emotion. Right now they are getting mixed signals based on what their instincts tell them to expect (hatch) and what the eggs are telling them (no hatch) so there will be some level of confusion which will be reflected in their actions (setting on eggs, not setting on eggs, looking at eggs, not looking at eggs). Many of us watching are concerned about what is going on. Fortunately, Scout and Orville don't share those worries or concerns the same way as we humans do. Their ultimate goal is to produce offspring and if it doesn't happen with this clutch of eggs, hopefully their hormone levels will allow them to produce more eggs. Regardless, Scout and Orville will come out of this fine.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

What's next if there's no hatch?

Unfortunately it is appearing more and more that we may not have a hatch this round. Seeing pipped eggs was definitely a good sign, but as I said in a previous post, evidence of hatching doesn't guarantee the chick will make it out of the egg alive. That may be what has happened. If the chick(s) were continuing to peck and vocalize from inside the egg(s) we would expect to see the adult bird standing over the eggs, looking down in response to the sounds and vibrations coming from inside the egg. However, more times than not the adult on the nest is sitting tight on the eggs as if continuing incubation.

So, where do we go from here? If we did nothing, the adults would likely continue to incubate the eggs for several more days. Eventually, they would give up and be finished for this nesting season. However, if we still do not have a hatch by Friday I will remove the eggs from the nest for two purposes. First, removal of the eggs completely may stimulate Scout and Orville to renest yet this spring. There would be a chance for a second clutch. Secondly, we will have the eggs examined to determine if all were fertile, and how far along development occurred. We can still hope to have a hatch, but something tells me I may be coming face to face with some protective falcons on Friday...

Still waiting...

At the risk of sounding like a broken record we are still waiting to confirm a hatch. At least 2 eggs are pipped but that doesn't guarantee that they will hatch out successfully. I know this is very trying for everyone, but there is nothing we can do except wait and watch and keeping hoping...

Some viewers "forget" that the refreshed still images continue to be available. Don't forget that option if the live streaming happens to be down temporarily. Additionally, what you might find interesting is that the refreshed stills are actually ahead of the video. The delay is caused by the time it takes for the software to capture the video and transfer it to the server and then back to the website for all to see. At times I have the floating window up with the nestbox still and the two video windows up at the same time and I can see a change in activity first on the still shot before it happens on video.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Don't count your falcons before they're hatched...

Wow, is everyone really in suspense! Will the eggs hatch or won't they? Well, we definitely hope they will but remember, there is the chance they may not due to one or more factors. This is Scout's first attempt and depending on her maturity there's no guarantee the eggs are fertile. However, in this picture it definitely looks like there is some hatching going on. The egg on the left appears to have a hole in it! So we will keep good thoughts but in reality, we won't count any falcons until we have a hatch for sure. I have been a little concerned that the adults have been setting so tight on the eggs. I would expect that they would be noticably restless as described in earlier posts. Unfortunately, I will be in the field tomorrow and unable to update the blog until Wednesday. I truly hope to have good news by then!

Still waiting...

Well, we are still waiting for a hatch. Some watchers over the weekend thought they heard chicks peeping from inside the egg and the adults were thought to be restless. Regardless, the waiting continues. Stay tuned (but do try and get some work done if you are watching from your place of employment!!)

Friday, May 04, 2007

Last update for the week...

Well, still no hatch as of ~3 p.m. Friday but behavior would indicate things are different from basic incubation. I've seen the birds stand up and look below them more often. When you see them do that, you hope that something is up, but then they settle back tight on the eggs. So, the waiting continues! Times like these try our patience!

This is the last update for this week. I'm expecting that most of the hatching will likely occur over the weekend and I'll be surprised if we don't have chicks by Monday. I'll get caught up first thing back in the office next week and update the blog with as much info as possible then. (Believe it or not, I don't have a home computer to monitor things over the weekend!!)

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Pipped egg?

There have been some problems with the live streaming video. We apologize for any inconvenience. Know that we are still in the process of working out bugs and as the number of users increase we should expect the system to bog down now and again. Sometimes the problem is in house, sometimes it is with the server. It is a complicated system but we are monitoring it closely and as soon as we detect a problem we are working to correct it as soon as humanly possible! We want to see what is going on as much as all of the falcon fans out there do. Thank you for your patience!

This picture was sent to me this morning that shows a possible pipped egg. Hard to tell for sure, but if it is we could expect to see hatching activity later today or more likely tomorrow. (It takes a long time for a chick to work its way out of the shell.)

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Signs of hatching...what to watch for

Hard to believe it's been a month since we saw the first egg in the nest. Incubation takes about 33 days, however it is difficult to predict when the birds actually begin setting full time. Counting from the date of the 4th egg, 33 days is Thursday, May 3rd, so that is when we predict hatching to occur. However, it isn't an exact science thus that prediction may be off by a few days. Don't be surprised if hatch begins earlier and don't panic if hatch is late! And, remember that the eggs won't all hatch at once - they will hatch over a couple of days time.

Given that, here are some signs to help tell when hatch is close. A day or so prior to hatching the chicks will begin vocalizing from inside the egg and pecking to work their way out. The adult birds can hear the chirping and feel the vibration and so their behavior will change. While throughout the majority of incubation they have set tight on the eggs they will become very restless. They will get up and look down at the eggs more often, settle back down, and be up looking again within a short time. There is a microphone inside the nest box (black circle in the upper right back corner). I can't say for sure if we will be able to hear the chicks chirping from inside the eggs with this mic, but it may be something to listen for.

After hatching the chicks will need to be kept warm so Scout will brood the hatchlings. This may look similar to incubation but she will actually be sitting up higher and may hold her wings out from her body more than we see during incubation.

Finally, keep in mind this is Scout's first clutch so it is possible that some or all of the eggs may not even hatch. Of Victory's first clutch in 2005, only 2 of the 4 eggs hatched.

The weather forecast for the rest of the week is for lots of sun. Unfortunately, if hatching occurs midday, the shadow in the box will make it hard to see detail. Let's hope for the best and enjoy watching the eggs hatch on live streaming video!